This week we were lucky enough to chat with Lea Goldman, the Features Director of a little magazine you may have heard of called Marie Claire. Lea focuses on career and workplace matters for Marie Claire and Marie Claire@Work, so we thought she would be a perfect fit for The Grindstone. Besides having just a blatantly cool job (interviewing Spanx founder Sara Blakely is just one of the things she has done), her career in magazine journalism is really just stunning. Previously, she was a Senior Editor at Forbes Magazine, where she oversaw the magazine and website’s entertainment coverage, including the publication of that magazine’s annual Celebrity 100 list of the Top Earning Entertainers in Hollywood. In partnership with E! Entertainment Television, Lea helped produce and appeared in Forbes’ hour-long TV specials based on Forbes lists. She was also a regular contributor to Fox News Channel programs like Forbes on Fox and Your World with Neil Cavuto. She is the recipient of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice in Journalism and earned an ASME nomination for her Marie Claire piece on “The Big Business of Breast Cancer”. Lea graduated from Columbia University where she studied literature.
She talked with The Grindstone about thriving on the frenetic place of life, rulebreakers, packing on the freshmen 15 at work and aspiring to have an Ellen Barkin haircut and treadmill in her office eventually (don’t we all?)
Did you picture yourself in a career like this growing up?
Lea Goldman: I’ve been a magazine junkie my entire life. Growing up, over family dinners, I usually had my head buried in Newsweek, Time, People—whatever I could get my hands on. I always knew I wanted a career in magazines. And here I am!
Do you think work/life balance is possible or kind of a joke?
I find the term a bit annoying and dated. Yes, my life is crazy busy, and I’ve always got a lot on my plate. But 1) I like it that way and 2) even women without partners or kids have hectic schedules. Working moms don’t own the term. I remember before I had my son (he’s now two years old), trying to squeeze in marathon training before work. I’d get home at night utterly wiped out, with no energy or will at all to meet up with friends. What balance was that? But you power through. We do it all because we want to. And yes, sometimes work takes over (and we answer emails in bed at midnight!), and sometimes our personal lives take priority. Achieving “balance” is rare. But I thrive on the frenetic pace.
Do you think being a woman in this business has worked for or against you? Do you think there is a prejudice or some people in journalism or media may look down on so-called women’s magazines?
I have rarely thought about myself as a “woman” in this business. I do what I do, and I always swing for the fences. Do some people stereotype women’s magazines? Sure. But if your work is strong, it defies criticism of that sort. I’ve done some of the best work of my career at Marie Claire.
What are your career goals? Do you have a next move in mind?
Tough to say since the industry is moving in so many different directions. I like to think of myself as a strategist, so business development interests me. I’m an editor at my core, but magazines are essentially businesses (some not so small!), and the idea of running one has always intrigued me.
Where do you see your career in five years?
I see a wardrobe allowance, an Ellen Barkin haircut, and a treadmill in my office. Beyond that, who knows?
Who do you admire in this business? Do you have a mentor?
One of the big perks of my job is that I get to talk to successful women in interview formats just like this one. So while I don’t have a mentor, per se, I have been privy to very candid stories and advice from some rather impressive women. I admire people who aren’t bound by rules and woulda-coulda-shoulda thinking. All the truly powerful people I talk to have one thing in common—when everyone did business a certain way, they all thought, “Why don’t we try something else?” Those rulebreakers are the ones that usually have the most to show for their successes. And I do love me a good rags to riches story.